What is Cheese Tea?

Cheese tea is a sweet and savory drink that originated in Taiwan around 2010. It consists of iced tea, usually black, green, or oolong tea, that is topped with a foamy, creamy mixture of cream cheese, milk, whipping cream and salt.

What is Cheese Tea

The combination of the cold, often bitter tea with the salty, sweet cream cheese foam offers a unique interplay of flavors. It has become popular across Asia, especially in China, Taiwan, Japan, Malaysia and Singapore, but has yet to gain widespread popularity elsewhere.

How Cheese Tea is Made

Cheese tea gets its name from the creamy, cheesy foam that sits on top of the iced tea base. But don't worry - it's not actually made with melted cheese or cheese cubes.

Instead, the cheese topping is made by whipping together ingredients like cream cheese, milk, whipping cream, and salt until light and foamy. Some versions also incorporate cheese powder to get an even fluffier texture.

The tea base uses black, green or oolong tea, brewed cold and served over ice. Milk is sometimes added to the tea as well. Other mix-in ingredients can include fruit, chocolate or even Oreo crumbs.

Once the foamy cheese topping is piped or spooned over the cold tea, it's finished off with a sprinkling of salt, which helps balance the sweetness and enhance flavor.

How to Drink Cheese Tea

Cheese tea is meant to be sipped so that you get both elements - the tea and the cheese foam - in each mouthful.

Rather than using a straw, cheese tea is typically served in cups with special dome lids that have a small opening to sip from. This allows the tea and foam to mix as you drink it.

Experts recommend holding your cheese tea at a 45 degree angle and taking small sips from the corner of the lid opening. This ensures you get the ideal proportion of the bittersweet tea and the thick, sweet foam.

Some people also like to gently stir the foam into the icy tea with a long spoon prior to their first sip. This swirls the components together while still retaining some foamy texture on top.

Either way, the combination of the warm, creamy foam and cold, brisk tea is what makes this drink so interesting and delicious!

Key Takeaway: Cheese tea should be sipped slowly at a 45 degree angle without a straw, so the tea and cheese foam mix perfectly in each mouthful.

Where Cheese Tea Comes From

Cheese tea has its origins in Taiwan, where street vendors started making and selling the unique beverage around 2010.

The Taiwanese night market vendors would whip up the salty and sweet foam topping made from simple ingredients like powdered cheese, milk, whipping cream and salt. They'd spoon this over chilled black or green tea for a tasty snack.

The concept then spread to mainland China around 2012, after cheese tea was embraced by popular tea houses like HeyTea. These Chinese tea sellers started using higher quality ingredients like real cream cheese and fresh milk to elevate the drink.

Cheese tea has steadily risen in popularity since then, becoming a phenomenon across Asia known for its long lines and crazy wait times. Devotees will wait hours to get their cheese tea fix!

The drink has spread to other areas like Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia and Japan. In fact cheese tea grew so popular in Japan that major drink company Kirin is developing a bottled RTD (ready-to-drink) version to sell in stores.

Cheese Tea vs. Boba Milk Tea

Cheese tea shares some similarity with the very popular boba milk tea or bubble tea drink. However there are some key differences between the two tea-based beverages:

  • Base: Boba tea is black or green tea mixed with milk and sweeteners like sugar or honey. Cheese tea often has no milk added to the actual tea.
  • Texture: Boba contains chewy tapioca balls, while cheese tea gets its thickness from the foamy cheese topping instead.
  • Flavor: Cheese tea has a prominent sweet yet salty flavor thanks to the cream cheese foam. Boba tea is often fruit-flavored.
  • Customization: Boba teas have many flavor varieties, mixes and add-ins. Cheese tea is typically just one or two main flavor profiles.

Cheese tea focuses more on the special creamy, cheesy foam topping rather than add-ins or adventurous tea flavors.

Main Ingredients in Cheese Tea

As you may have gathered, the two core components that make up cheese tea are:

  1. The tea base
  2. The cheese foam topping

Tea Base

The most common teas used are:

  • Black tea
  • Green tea
  • Oolong tea

Some versions incorporate milk into the actual tea, though many do not. Cheese tea can also be made with herbal blends or even coffee instead of tea.

Cheese Foam Topping

These are the key ingredients that go into the signature foam:

  • Cream cheese - Provides the namesake cheesy flavor and creamy texture
  • Milk - Adds smoothness and richness
  • Whipping cream - Helps whip the mixture light and foamy
  • Powdered cheese (optional) - Results in an even fluffier foam
  • Salt - A touch of salt balances sweetness and makes flavors pop

The foam can take on various flavors depending on mix-in ingredients like fruit purees, chocolate or cookie crumbles. But most basic cheese tea recipes call for plain cream cheese and milk whipped into an airy, sweet and salty topping.

Trying Cheese Tea for the First Time

If you've never tasted cheese tea before, it's understandable if you're a bit hesitant about the combination of cheese and tea.

Fortunately, the name can be rather misleading - the cheese flavor is very subtle, adding a creamy and slightly tangy nuance rather than being overly cheesy. It melds beautifully with the bitterness of black tea or fresh grassiness of green tea.

We recommend starting off with a simple cheese tea recipe that uses basic black or green tea and unflavored cheese foam. This gives you the truest essence of the drink. Select a cafe that uses quality tea and real dairy like cream cheese versus powder.

When you take your first sip, be sure to let the tea and foam mingle together as intended. Getting both components in one mouthful really allows the sweet and salty notes to shine against the tea. Approach it with an open mind and you'll likely find cheese tea to be surprisingly pleasant and addictive!

Health Benefits and Concerns of Cheese Tea

Like most dessert-style beverages, cheese tea is fairly high in calories, sugar and fat. A 12-16 oz cup can pack 300-500 calories.

This is due to the large amount of high-fat dairy ingredients like milk, cream cheese and sometimes whipping cream used to make the signature foam topping. Powdered cheeses or creamers are often high in additives, saturated fats and sodium too.

However, the tea base itself brings some potential health upsides:

  • Antioxidants - Black and green teas contain polyphenols and catechins with antioxidant properties that may protect cells from damage. These compounds have been linked with anti-aging, anti-inflammatory effects and chronic disease prevention.
  • Caffeine - The natural caffeine in tea can give you a pleasant energizing lift and boost mental alertness and focus.

Given the high calorie and fat content though, we recommend enjoying cheese tea in moderation as an occasional treat. Choosing lower sugar options can help limit empty calories too if this drink becomes your next obsession!

Popular Variations and Flavors

One fun thing about cheese tea is experimenting with different mix-in flavors and garnishes. Some popular variations include:

  • Fruit-flavored teas - Passionfruit, mango, lychee
  • Dessert-inspired foams - Tiramisu, white chocolate, hazelnut, creme brulee
  • Mix-ins - Fresh fruit like strawberry and kiwi, aloe vera chunks, pudding
  • Visual toppers - Colorful fruit pearls, cookies, chocolate drizzle, shredded coconut

Again, the cheese foam tends to be lightly flavored or plain in most traditional recipes. But some modern cheese tea cafes have gotten quite inventive with their foam and tea combinations.

While tasty, additional toppings do increase the drink's calorie and sugar content. So flavor-wise it's best to choose just one or two mix-ins that appeal most to your taste preferences.

We suggest starting with a simple classic black or green tea base with plain cheese foam to experience the essence of this unique beverage. Then you can venture into more daring cheese tea territory!

Eating the Cheese Foam with a Spoon

An indulgent way to enjoy your cheese tea is to treat the foam layer almost like a little dessert.

Some cheese tea fans will separate the foam into another cup or small bowl, then literally eat it with a spoon once they've finished drinking the tea.

The rich, fluffy foam can be subtly sweet and salty like whipped cream with a whisper of tang. Its airy, mousse-like texture melts pleasantly over your tongue.

Spooning up the foam gives you a more concentrated hit of the cream cheese flavor too. It makes for a nice little treat - albeit not the most elegant when eaten on its own!

Just take care not to accidentally sip back some foam or tea drips when enjoying your cheese foam. This uneven tea-to-foam ratio throws off the intended balance of flavors. Slurping it right off the spoon helps optimize deliciousness.

So go on, grab an extra spoon and indulge in this guilty pleasure of cheese tea culture!

Availability of Cheese Tea in Western Countries

Despite its popularity in Asia, cheese tea has been slower to take off in Europe, Australia, Canada and the United States so far.

There are a few factors that have prevented cheese tea from reaching mainstream success or trending globally:

  1. Lack of awareness - The concept is still very foreign to Westerners. Boba and bubble tea didn't break out until people tried it and realized how tasty it was.
  2. Intimidating name - Call it "foamy tea" and it probably would do better! The cheese terminology causes hesitation and false perceptions about the actual flavor.
  3. Missing context - Asian food trends often start in mom-and-pop shops before expanding into big chains. Without an established cheese tea vendor landscape, there's less buzz and sampling opportunities.

However, as Asian populations and tourism rise abroad, so does openness and curiosity to explore new drinks like cheese tea.

Independent cheese tea cafes are starting to pop up in major international cities trying to establish cheese tea on local menus. Trendsetting foodies and college students are key groups embracing the novel concept too.

So while it may take more time and exposure, don't be surprised if you start seeing cheese tea appearing in shops near you soon!

Trying Cheese Tea at Home

Want to get ahead of the curve and make this Asian drink trend at home? It's easier than you may think!

The process involves two main components - brewing tea and whipping up dairy foam.

Follow this method:

Brew tea base

  • Bring water to a boil and steep black, green or oolong tea bags for 3-5 minutes
  • Chill tea concentrate quickly in fridge
  • Pour over ice (do not dilute with water)

Make cheese foam

  • Soften cream cheese to room temperature
  • Whip cream cheese with icing sugar, milk and pinch of salt
  • Blend until light and fluffy


  • Pour icy tea into cups
  • Spoon cheese foam over tea
  • Garnish with fruit or sprinkle lightly with additional salt

And that's really all there is to it! Adjust sweetness and thickness of foam to your taste preferences.

Part of the fun is taking that first sip and getting the interplay of warm foam and cold tea together. So grab a dome-lidded cup and curved straw and let the cheese tea-making begin!


What does cheese tea taste like?

The flavor of cheese tea is sweet and salty, with the cheese foam delivering a subtle tangy, creamy essence rather than an overwhelmingly cheesy taste. This mingles nicely with floral, grassy green tea or malty black tea notes. The interplay of bitter tea and airy sweet foam is what makes it so unique and addictive!

Do you put actual cheese in cheese tea?

Authentic cheese tea should use real cream cheese in the topping rather than literal chunks or melty strands of cheese. The name is more figurative - the saltiness and texture resembles cheese. Some Asian vendors use cheese powder to get an ultra-fluffy whipped foam texture on top.

Is cheese tea healthy?

In moderation, cheese tea can be a tasty treat. But it's high in calories, saturated fat and sodium, so drink in sensible portions. Milk foam sweetened with sugar and made using heavy dairy also increases the overall calories. Going with plain green tea and less creamy foam can help lighten it up.


Cheese tea offers a truly one-of-a-kind drinking experience with its surprising yet addictive interplay of flavors and textures. This Asian-born beverage trend has compiled a passionate fanbase thanks to its sweet cream cheese foam topping paired with cold, bitter tea.

Sipped properly through dome lids so both elements blend together, cheese tea is a comforting indulgence that leaves you wanting more. As tasty Asian treats like bubble tea have shown, cheese tea certainly has the potential to go global.

AGAH Productions
AGAH Productions